Riya Finnegan, LLC v. Twp. Council of South Brunswick, et al.
On February 21, 2006, the Law Division decided Riya Finnegan, LLC v. Twp. Council of South Brunswick, which has been approved for publication (but has not yet been given a book and page in the official reporter). In this case, Township Council amended its zoning ordinance to prohibit retail uses on a specific piece of property in direct response to objections raised by area residents over an application to construct a mixed-use retail and office complex on the subject property. This zoning change was completely inconsistent with the Township Master Plan for the area where the subject property was located and, as such, in order for the zoning change to be valid under the Municipal Land Use Law, N.J.S.A. 40:55D-1, et. seq., Township Council was required to pass the zoning change by a majority of its full authorized membership and set forth by resolution a statement of reasons for the proposed inconsistency. Although Township Council produced a statement of reasons to support the proposed change in the permitted uses for the subject property, Township Council based its decision exclusively on lay testimony from residents and unsupported planning-related conclusions from the Township Planner. The Court found that this was “insufficient” and concluded that action taken by Township Council in adopting the zoning amendment was “arbitrary and unreasonable and is void ab initio.” In addition, although not necessary to the decision, the Court also invalidated the zoning amendment on grounds that it constituted inverse spot zoning.